The Interview with Mark Bowden
Best Selling Author, Speaker, Consultant and Leading Expert on Body Language & Communication
On a Personal Note:
Mark is humorous, philosophical, a great cook and loves spending time with family and friends. He's one of those people you meet and feel like you've been friends before. This will sound cliche but he's just super nice. His 'genuineness' just happens. If you do ever have the good luck to run into him don't be shy; see if you can say hi to him before he will to you.
I really enjoyed and benefited from his teachings. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Mark, as much as I did.
Mark Bowden, voted #1 body language professional in the world by Global Gurus. He's advised presidents, CEOs of Fortune500 companies and G7 Prime Ministers. He's written four best-selling books on Body Language and Communication. He is a sought after speaker because he is entertaining, inspirational and educational. His TEDx talk is one such example of his work; a must see.
“It’s often not what you say-but how you say it that gets you extraordinary results”
In this interview, we cover a wide range of topics from:
-The do's and don'ts of body language,
-Introverts and extrovert mindset
-What is honest communication vs. manipulation.
-What we do wrong and unintentionally dissolve trust
-How to be a better communicator just by changing our hands, face ...
We talk about theatre, how Mark became the leading expert in body language and how his struggle with dyslexia helped him! It's a real candid interview about the complexities of non-verbal communication.
(LOST In TRANSCRIPTION: This interview was dictated to close as possible to the actual conversation, however, there may be errors in the dictated process. Capturing the intentions and emotions through words to reflect the conversation can be incomplete).
Lalit: Mark, I got to tell you, I am super excited to have you here on the podcast and a welcome to the show.
Mark: Well, you know, I'm happy to be here. Happy to be with you and, and answer any questions that you've got for you and your audience.
Lalit: Well, I got to tell you, I've had trouble sleeping last few nights because knowing that I'm going to be speaking with you today and all the knowledge that you have to share about body language. The things you taught us when you gave the keynote that the Schulich School of Medicine (University of Western Ontario) literally blew me out of the water and a lot of the doctors who were sitting beside me. I think you really dispelled and broke down some myths and mistakes that many of us make in the clinical setting. I was so taken aback by your keynote, and I want to get into all that maybe just a little bit later, but I want to start off the interview with kind of getting to know you since you and I have some similarities. In that my earlier life I was an Illusionist and I did a lot of theatre and took some drama classes in university, I did dance. And so I learned some parts of body language and movement. But you, if I understand it correctly, started off in theatre? Can you tell me how that led you to your current status to becoming the number one expert in body language and communication?
Mark: So what happened was, as a kid I was really obsessed with a movement and, and animal movement, Human Movement; just the natural world, the way it moved, why it moved. Then I got quite obsessed with just the movement of humans and imagery. How imagery and especially our bodies and the way our bodies movement affect people's minds. And I got into visual art and then from that into visual theatre. So a really specific area of theatre and film and TV, where you're using the moving images to affect the way that people are thinking and feeling. So it was really about how do you change people's emotions that dealings with the moving images that you can play them. And are there some, some universal triggers out there? Are there some things that you can do anywhere in the world that will kind of get you very much the same results.
Mark: So I got really obsessed with that, and then people in business and politics came to me and said they knew the work that I was doing within, within theatre around that and film and TV. And they said, "can you do that with people in business and within politics who are presenting and trying to change people's minds, trying to influence and persuade?" I said, "I reckon I can." That's when I got into the area of, I guess, performance training for people in business and politics with this specific thing of my expertise by then, in body language or what many people call nonverbal communication. But I just kind of call it moving pictures and influence and persuasion via moving pictures. And then I got asked to write books. And so I've got four books now on human behaviour and body language and, and so here I am.
Mark: I guess I've just done a lot more than most other people, I've written more than most other people, looked at it more than most other people, and come up with some ideas that nobody else had the came up with. I mean, that's true. There's some thoughts that I've had and some models that I've created around a nonverbal communication, which are unique and very, very powerful. And that's what was really marked me out in the world of body language.
Lalit: You've worked with some really top notch, people in theatre. You've had some amazing mentors. How has that influenced your ability? Because I'm sure that hones your skill set and knowledge.
Mark: Yes. So I'm, I'm, fortunate, not by law. I mean, I went out there to get it with no luck involved. But I was fortunate to be driven enough to go and find and study with and get alongside, ultimately some of the best people in the world, in visual. And so I was able to work alongside some people who are legendary in that area and become, too much of an extent, peers along alongside them. So it really meant when I bought that world of theatre to performance training. I mean what many people would call presentation training, rarely speaker training.
I mean there are many people out there who are bringing, acting skills to that end, and some understandings of theatre just so happens that the level of understanding that I'm bringing from the theatre is at a quite elite, rarefied, extreme level. You know, working alongside some of the greats, ground-breaking people in theatre. Bringing that to presentation skills means that I'm able to cut through in a way that many other people who've been in acting or been in theatre all been in fulfilment TV just aren't able to do. I was really at the cutting edge of theatre when I was there.
Lalit: When I read your books, it was evident that you not only brought the theatre aspect of it but you also the science behind it. And you thought things through.
Now, to be honest with you, I've seen people talk about body language but then to hear you speak as the keynote and your TEDx talk that you did in Toronto blew everything I knew of body language out of the water.
I also having being in theatre, know that body language adds to the knowledge and skill set of a clinician. I know that that certainly made me a better clinician and communicator, but you took it to another level, and I think that's why you've been so successful.
Mark: For sure. Well, I'm thinking in a very different way about it. When I was in theatre, film and TV and as a performer myself, we were all thinking in our area. We were all thinking about that in a very different way. It's true to say the work that we were doing revolutionized and renovated fit around the late eighties, early nineties. You wouldn't be watching the theatre that you're watching right now if we hadn't been doing that work back then. And so I bring that work to the work of performance training for presentation skills, for speakers, for keynote speakers, business speakers, political speakers.
I'm bringing that innovative work, which is different thinking about performance, about communication and trying to understand at a fundamental level how it's working on us. How we as human beings work with each other socially. How we think about each other, how it influences and persuades each other.
And again, especially in this world of the image and movement.
One of my, mentors I called MJC, one of his phrases was that everything moves, everything moves well, well think about that! We're moving right now, we are circling the sun, the sun is spiralling through the galaxy, at extraordinary speeds. The matter of my body right now in this room is moving right now. Everything moves. The only thing that would stop, even the atoms moving would be to go to absolute zero. And that's not gonna happen. So at least from the science that I can tell, we're not going to absolute zero. We're moving all the time. We are a moving universe and, and so, you know, we were thinking in those terms. If what links, every piece of matter in the universe is that everything moves well that's an extraordinary premise on which to start creating from.
Mark: I still, even though I'm doing business keynotes and I'm training business people, politicians and keynote speakers, I still see myself as a, as an artist in that I'm trying to remind people that they're alive in front of me. Remind everybody that we are physical matter. Because often people get very psychological, they get very spiritual as well, and they forget that this is real moving stuff all the time. And that is an extraordinary thing to know that we are physical matter and we are linked by movement all the time. So, you know, to the, to your point there, I'd just been thinking in a different way than most other people in body language. That's why the books are so different. And that's why I've been given, I guess, the accolades that I have - is that people in body language as well.
We're going, wow, we haven't seen this before. We haven't thought about it in that way before. It has been totally unique the way I've approached it.
Lalit: Well, what I love about it, is that you're teaching are simple yet elegant. And you, you know, once I had read your books, I was able to see why is it that when I'm watching another speaker or how other people are trying to connect. Or why am I not connecting? And so much had to do with, you know, the different planes you're talking about. I really want to get into that in a bit, but I want to ask you a question. You know, as an actor and performer, I have my own biases or my own thought on this. But you know if people see me, speak as an illusionist or they know that when I was on stage and doing two-hour stage shows, when I used to do that. And then currently speaking (conferences and workshops); people think I'm an extrovert. What is your thoughts about actors and performers? Are they extroverts? Are they all extroverts or introverts?
I just would like to hear your perspective on that.
Mark: So most of the ones that I've met that I think are exceptionally good, exceptionally good artists- performing artists. I, they communicate performance by something that happens once a foreign audience is there to view. You know their art is not something that is distributed on their own. It’s not communicated for themselves. Most of them, if not all that I think are any good are really introverts, in that they are real thinkers about what they're doing and why they're doing it. And they will take time to, to truly think through the possibilities. And think about why, how, where and when and with whom. They’ll think deeply about these things at many different levels. And then they go out and they do it. So, the act as they are called actors because they do action- actors really shouldn't think, that's for philosophers.
It’s not that they shouldn't think, it’s outside of acting. But when you're acting, you must do because you're an actor, you to do action outside of that, you should be a, a thinker or philosopher. You should be introverted for sure. Yes, you should be social as well. You got to hang around with other artists and you've got to talk about it and you've got to discuss it and get things going. But you've got to think about it before you go about how you act and then you must act and only act. You must do the action. And so at that point, actress can look very extrovert. I can look like, oh, they're not thinking about this, that just, they're just there in the moment. Doing it. And that's true. They are. And they should be. And that's why that is so compelling because they're a force of nature.
It's like having an animal there with you. It's like when you watch a bird, you look at a bird and you've got them. The bird isn't thinking, but it's just doing stuff. You look at a Fox. The fox isn't thinking it's just, just doing stuff. But what we, what we've not noticed, about the actor is, the thought that's gone into it beforehand and the community that they've been part of around that thinking. So, on stage, I will totally look like an extrovert and people will go, ‘Oh God, it's got to be extraordinary round your house. Cause it must be amazing to be there’. But I don't do that run that, I'll be a nightmare. I'm already a nightmare to live with as an introvert, you know it would be even more of a nightmare as an extrovert. Because I won't be thinking at all, I'd just be doing stuff and getting myself into so much trouble by not thinking properly about stuff before I do it.
Lalit: Well, the reality is you can't write four books and be an extrovert. I mean, there's so much thinking involved. Right? I know when my 13 year old daughter, she said to me, when she heard the podcast title The Introverted Doctor, she goes, ‘you’re not an introvert. What are you talking about? When you're performing and speaking like that’ and you know, she also has seen the goofy side of me. So I had to explain to her, I said, ‘you know, as an introvert, you need a lot of downtime. You need a chance to recharge.’ And even in performing. I think one of the key to why I was successful, when I was doing magic shows and big stage shows, was that there was a lot of thought in terms of movement, the sequencing of the illusions that I would do; to create the variability, the music, the lighting, and the dance of performing. And so there's a real purpose to what you're doing and, and so I can totally relate to what you're, you're talking about.
Mark: So it really is thinking about that and thinking about, let's call it the choreography of that, where there are no mistakes in the practice that you've created, that you’ve thought about everything. So that in my view, when you get onstage with that audience, you are at a level whereby mistakes can happen and they become something more wonderful, you know, that play with the audience- that to have your mind free from the movements so much that your mind is free on your body and is free to respond to what's happening in the audience. You know, I'm sure you've experienced when you've managed to practice, an illusion to such an extent that it kind of just happens even for you. Well, I know the audience, you can watch the magic happen in the audience's mind and eyes. You can see, you can see that you've truly created something true and real for them and a place of wonder for them.
Lalit: Well, one of the reasons I still love performing magic is because it's so automatic. When I see the illusion unfold in front of me, especially when I'm doing like close up magic, I myself am amazed. It’s like what, how does that happen?
I've done so much practice that the, thinking about it is gone. And I think people are, entertained because they look like I'm surprised just as much as they are. And that's the fun part of performing there's that spontaneity of what happens with the audience and you can connect with them; especially the ad libbing. That's really what I love about performing - the things that will come up and the little flub up or the, not necessarily flubs, but the opportunities to take something in a different direction than you may have not have thought of and it actually elevates the game. Right?
Mark: So that’s for me is about being so practiced in your art that you're able to leave yourself open for real life happenings because both what you and I are doing is creating an illusion. We are creating an illusion. If I'm up there speaking, I'm creating the illusion that this happened for the first time. That I've almost never said this before, that these thoughts are coming into my head. You know, right now I'm creating the illusion right now that I've never ever thought about this stuff before and this is kind of new and unique. That comes from the practice of the techniques around that. But once you already practiced in those techniques of creating the illusion that something real is happening, you leave yourself open for something real to actually happen- and you're there on, on stage or you're, they're communicating in business or in politics or delivering your keynote speech or your presentation and in your head you suddenly go, “wow, this is happening for real.”
Mark: Like this, I haven't thought this before. I haven't, I wasn't expecting that question. I haven't thought this. And you're truly in that moment and the only reason you can be in that moment is because you've practiced creating the illusion of all the other moments. Now that’s very different from, you know, many of the speakers who I see coming onstage who have practiced, practiced, practiced, and it's still a script in their head. It's still a script in their head. And immediately you get this instinct. It's not even instinct, you cognitively know, I could leave; I could leave this speech and nobody would notice. They don't even know I'm here. This will it be exactly the same tomorrow. They rehearsed every move, every word, every pause. They haven't left room for real life to actually happen to them.
Mark: And it's hollow. It's not massively bad, it’s just not art. It just doesn't have, it's just life. Isn't, i that just like you have seen live seen many, many magicians whereby it's, it's well executed, but it's hollow. It has no life in it. It has no moment for mistakes. It has no moment for a surprise. And then we've all seen brilliant performers, brilliant magicians who you just go, God, this isn't even about the trick or the illusion. This is about us being together in the room together. The illusion, the trick is an excuse, which is brilliant. Like, this is just an excuse for me to be with a really interesting human being.
Lalit: You know, you couldn't have said it better because, when I'm performing, I feel it is an honour to have the audience there, because without the audience, nothing magical happens. You could be on a blank stage and, and you could do the illusions, you could practice it, but it is so boring. The real magic, the excitement that happens are the interactions you have with the audience. And that's the fun part for me. I don't know if this is the same for you. You know, when you're on stage speaking or performing, you could be on stage for two hours and that feels like five minutes because you are so in the now and present. There’s nothing else distracting you ever.
Mark: It’s interesting in that the point of doing, you know, doing it on your own, the universe does not care that you pretended to make a coin disappear. It just doesn't, it just keeps on spinning. Like you couldn't change the universe and the gods could not care less. You had the illusion of a coin disappearing. There is nothing more minuscule of meaningless than that, there really isn't. But being there, with somebody where they experience the wonder of that and to create the wonder of that for somebody- just like for me to be on stage and, and create the moment where their mind goes, wow, wow. So you can move your body in a certain way and it has an effect. Look, it had an effect on me. And they go, they go, ‘wow, you just changed me on purpose right now.’
You changed the way I was thinking. You've changed the way I was. I was feeling you did that on purpose. You, Europe up in new affected me on purpose and it worked. It happened to me. And then they instantly feel that connection and they go, ‘wow, we can, we can so we can change each other’. We can have an effect on each other. That sort of really empowering moment when they feel that they can affect themselves as well. That's a really empowering moment and that's really what it's about. It's not about the content, it's about the effect of the content just as it is. It's not about the trick or the illusion, it's about the effect of that on, on people. That's where the real magic is for sure.
Lalit: 100% well you know, I'm sure you've had people ask you, ‘you're doing these techniques to build trust or improve communication. Are you, is it genuine? Isn’t it kind of manipulation?’
And I'll, I'll let you speak to that. But you know, certainly, in terms of my perception, I know a lot of people who have a genuine heart, they want to be better communicators. They want to connect with patients and their colleagues, but they don't know what they're doing right or wrong. And so for example, when they have their hands down in the grotesque plane where they look so rigid and they look scared, but their heart really is to connect with people and make things better. And so if you could just speak to that?
Mark: So, first of all, yes, absolutely. It is absolutely manipulative. I make no excuses for it. Manipulation is a fantastic thing in that...The primary reason why we have such a big neocortex is so we can manipulate it. So that we can manipulate and be dextrous, move things with our hands in a delicate and big ways. And also the neocortex helps us for sure with this language. A language is a manipulation, with language, what we do is we take the world, the universe around it, and we abstract it down into manageable pieces called words. And we string those words together. But the words are not the thing. This is, I give you the menu, not the meal, but, but the words can be so powerfully manipulative that you almost think sometimes that the menu is the meal. It's enough. It's enough for me to tell you something without you actually seeing it, for you to believe it to be true.
And that's an extraordinary thing. And in my understanding, there is nothing else on the planet that can do that to the extent that we do it. So human beings are manipulative and it's a good thing. It's why we have this big brain. this big brain is hard to get out of a mother because it has to grow so big before we can walk. We can't walk when we're born, because parts of the brain have had to become so big that we haven't been able to fully develop. That’s the pain of childbirth...why?
So we can be manipulative. Now we can do it for good reasons or we can do it for bad reasons. And you as individuals out there, you have to decide. That's up to you. I can't tell you what's good or bad, your bad is my good. My bad is, you know, it depends on where you are, who you were then, what results you're trying to get and how much we come into conflict with each other as human beings.
But, essentially, yes, we are all going to manipulate. Now, are we going to do it on purpose? Are we going to do it by accident? Cause most of the time, we are doing it by accident. So you, your physician back in your description, who has the heart to have a great, trustworthy bedside manner; has the heart to want to, influence and persuade people to do the right thing. To take their medication, to take his advice. But they have their hands down by their sides in, in what I call the grotesque plane. And so they can seem disinterested, tired, indifferent to the advice that they're given, but they have the heart for it.
They're manipulating that by accident into being indifferent to them. The having a negative attitude towards them and that advice, they are manipulating them by accident. So I just go, can we do it on purpose? Like what result do you want? Because if you want a certain result, you're going to have to do certain actions. And it's not like we don't know the actions. I know the actions to do. I can give you the actions and you can do them or not do them. And listen, I don't care. I, it's not my life. It's yours. Do whatever you like. You know, if your physician, you probably going to be like... you put in a lot of work, there aren't too many physicians on the planet. But would you like to do it really well and affect people? If you do, you might want to do some behaviours on purpose. And for those you might want to choose your behaviours and choose your body language.
Lalit: Well, the best clinicians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and any person, nurses I've ever worked with, whether they do it consciously or unconsciously, they use great body language and they know they know how to do it well. But one of the things that we'll talk about some of the specifics, but you really did change some mistakes that people make in their communications. Maybe we'll talk about it now. I remember when you gave us this one exercise where two people are sitting in front of each other and they're talking and one person says, “can I tell you something important or it's almost like a secret.” And I think the tendency is you lean in. You lean forward because you think, Oh yes, I'm, I'm all ears. But instinctively it has the opposite effect, right? So with the right proximity or the wrong proximity can change things.
Mark: Right in, it can get into personal or intimate space and that can cause some negative assumptions depending on the relationship. But on the whole, the risk of negative assumptions can go up the moment you close in on somebody's space, somebody’s territory, especially if they're injured in some way. Because when you're injured, your brainstem or what many people might call the Amygdala, can be very over excited at that point. And it's hyper-alert and looking out for risk and they know somebody came in really close….high, high risk, high risk. So, sometimes it has the opposite effect. So what we might want to do and now that's not to say, hey, you're going to tell somebody something intimate, lean right back. Because what you can do is just more open body language, just something more open. Even just opening out the face rather than, “I want to tell you, I want to tell you something really secret.” Opening out the face and going, “I want to tell you something really secret” is more inviting, but really it's about risk and reward in that there are certain signals in the body that will indicate to others that something is low risk and certain signals in the body that could indicate to them that it's high risk.
Note, it doesn't mean it is low risk or high risk, but there are signals that are more likely to trigger them with those assumptions. And their assumptions will always be a very real, whether they are correct or incorrect. They are totally designed to feel absolutely real and absolutely correct regardless of how accurate they are. So, there are often some things that we as communicators do, which don't get the results that we're wanting, but actually, they tend to feel good. For us, it's rather like designing an illusion, designing a magic trick that works from your angle, but it doesn't ever work from the audience’s angle.
Lalit: I know what you mean. There is an illusion I do, which I don't like to do, actually because it seems like the solution is so straightforward, but audiences love watching it. And so I do it because it's because they enjoy it. They enjoy the complexities of it, they enjoy the audience interaction of it. And so I always keep that in mind. s that, You know what I do it because the audience has liked it in the past even though I've done it so many times so I continue to do it for their sake. I totally hear you.
Mark: Well. So there was that one of my key, trainers or mentors and a man that I went on to work with a huge amount in theatre, great. state of practitioner called John, right? undoubtedly the, one of the top visual theatre artists in the whole of Europe, if not the, not the world. We worked alongside each other for, for years and years and years and years. when I was training with them and when we'd be performing, he would stand in the audience and, and just be shouting out. It's for the audience. It's for the Lord. You'd do it for the order to do it for the audience is for the audience, is not for you. Nobody cares about you. It's for the audience. It's for the audience. And that was a, a, a, a great education in that it just kept your mind going, I, my experience of this doesn't matter or certainly doesn't matter nearly as much as the experience and the angle that the audience has on this, the optics that the audience have.
Mark: And also just, you know, where should my loyalty be placed here? My loyalty must be placed in the position of the, of the audience. I'm doing it only for them. I worked with well one of undoubtedly one of the greatest practitioners of theatre alive today. A guy called Phillip G and he would, he's a very nasty man. Very grouchy. He's the guy that, Sacha Baron Cohen trained with. And so the only reason you have Sashes characters is because of Phillip. So we'd be with Phillip he would be doing something, you know, very deep and personal onstage and he would go, nobody, nobody cares that your grandmother is dead. He totally wanted to get you out of this, this sense of importance in yourself and get you involved in the importance of the audience’s experience. So, all of that to say, you know, the more we put any of us, whether it's in business and politics or delivering speeches or keynotes or presentations, the more we put ourselves in that audience position and think to ourselves: ‘I'm doing it for them. It's only for them that I do this.’ The more connection we get and the better the communication is, the more interesting it is and entertaining it is.
Lalit: Absolutely. Well, as you know, clinicians and people, when anybody who works in healthcare, we know, we talk about patient centred care. So we're always looking at what is it that benefits them. And their expertise and how can I make an impact? How can you improve the trust so that they, there is an open flow of dialogue. You know, studies have shown that patients won't tell their healthcare provider, all the information. I forget the exact number, but 30% of patients will actually tell their healthcare provider that they're taking their medication, but in reality, they're not because they don't want to let them down.
Mark: So also I may have been asked if I've been taking my medication.
“Mark, have you been taking your medication?”
But I'm lying. I'm totally lying. It is down here in my desk. Already today I forgot it and also yesterday. ‘I'm not gonna die.”
But it will make my life better in the future, but I can't work that out. My brain can't work that out right now. Right now I'm trying to deal with life right now. And so I will lie to you and a lie pretty well. Like, I'm a, you know, if you're smart, you'll know I'm always lying. But you know, regardless of how good a liar I am; but I will lie to you. So it is your job to persuade me, like influence me, manipulate me, do something that's going to help change my mind so I can be better because I can't do it on my own.
I need you, I need you to help me. And I’m sure it's been your experience as well. There are many physicians who do better than that than others. Who are better persuaders, as who are better manipulators of people's minds in order for them to do what's better for them in some very cognitive dissonant world. If I'm not able to tell if, medicine or specific medicines make me better. I have to trust you. Trust the science. And I trust doctors and I trust science and it's even difficult for me. So, you know, I really feel that you know, physicians do an extraordinary job because they study, study, study, especially some of the general practitioners in that area. Such a huge amount of knowledge and experience so they can walk into a clinic and just go, “what's up? Tell me about it."
How do you know, how do you know who that information and then how'd you go from one case to another patient case and know that one as well? Such vast knowledge. But you know, the more that they can improve their ability to then influence and persuaded patients and politicians and general society with their knowledge, the better they can get at that. The better everything gets for everybody.
Lalit: What do you think are the top one or two mistakes that clinicians make when they're trying to build trust and how they can improve on very quickly?
Mark: That's a really interesting one, isn't it? Because, I haven't seen enough to really know this for sure. But what I know from my own experience is, clinicians are so under pressure, hurried, by their system that it's very easy for them to come into the room with you with the feeling that they left the last thing they’ve dealt with. Or that transition with very much the feeling of the last interaction. So it's almost like they're coming in with the feeling of their movement from scene to scene; not coming in and projecting to you instantly the vision that they want you to have of them.
There's like this transition they hurry in. You feel like they've come from somewhere, important or hurried or, or tricky or difficult. Then they hit you and then they do their transition. Then you, as the patient says “oh, I think it’s going to be okay. I think that quite actually caring for me. I think they, I think they're quite interested in me, but that wasn't the first impression that I got.”
And Lalit, understand I'm, I'm pretty good because I've made it my, my practice, to suspend judgment about people when I first see them. Because reading behaviour and body language is part of what I do. Assessing that and analyzing that. And one of the first things I have to do is suspend all judgement and go, “I don't know what this says. Who knows where they've come from.”
And think, that's not about me. That's about something else. So I think, I think there's a, there's an argument that says, can you get your transition over with in the moment of transition? And just before you come into the room with me, or the space where you came from, can you make a quick decision and create the performance of who you want to be in front of me right now, that will best influence and persuade me to make the right choices with you.
Lalit: I hear you. One of the things that I took away when you did the keynote was how our desks and our furniture really hinders the communication. And I recently moved to a new clinic, and the clinic I within before inherently allowed me to have the open body posture. I didn't have any obstruction when I was talking with the patient. But in this new clinical setting I thought about the way it was set up and basically more or less had would have to have my back against them or to the side of them. So, I actually bought a new desk and reconfigured the room because of what you taught. Just having that barrier between the patient automatically puts you, like you said, behind the eight ball. So that was a big learning. I know the doctors on the table, they were like, oh my gosh, “I better rearrange my clinical exam rooms because I'm totally blocking the patient and not paying attention to them.”
Mark: I’ve seen that with physicians all the time, with their office space, which is also part of their clinic's space. It is set up more for administration than it is for the patient. Now, I mean you and I both understand that in modern clinics, the administration of it is actually quite an important part. The keeping of records. It really helps people and the better they are at record keeping is and the more universal it gets; the healthier all of us will be. So it's very important that you input the data. But often the room has been set up for your benefit within that process. And it has negated sometimes to an extent the situation of the patient. And so it's just always worth looking at that setup and going, ‘ how much does this help my client, my patient, right now?’ Often, just as you said, that we set up blocks. What blocks will often do is block off the vision of you and your nonverbal behaviour.
And when that happens, the viewer defaults to more negatives. There's a good generalization is a very good gamble that the less I can see of you and the more barriers between you and me- the more negative I'll get around my assumptions about you. therefore my assumptions about your help for me. So the more I can't see you, the more I'll go: ‘I don't know whether that drug is really the one for me. I don't know whether that therapy is really gonna help me- as a good gamble.’ When gambling, the less I can see of you the less good I think your help is and it's a pretty good gamble that I'm going to win every time pretty much.
Lalit: can you talk about, you know, the truth plane because that's an important teaching. That’s a big area to immediately improve connection. I believe you're the one who created that, right?
Mark: Absolutely. So the gesture plane system was first written down by me and my book, Winning Body Language, which is almost a decade old now. But I'd been working on this for at least a decade before that, thinking about what are the major leavers, the simplest and biggest leavers that affect somebody else's perceptions of us. And I'd found the horizontal height at which the hands are had a fundamental difference and uniquely similar difference across the planet as to the perceptions we get of somebody. So an example of this, and by the way, I'll give everybody a URL right now.
If you go there, there's some free training for you on this gesture plane system.
Pick up that video training and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. But, the truth plane, for example, is the horizontal gesture plane at naval height- at the belly button. (Mark then shows it on the video to see it go to the link above to watch)
Actually, you know what I'm going to do, I'm just going to stand here and you won't see my face, but you're going to see my hands moving and just get an approximation of how trustworthy I might be. Just by seeing this part of my body. And now all I'm going to do is hang my hands down by my side. I'll still keep on gesturing there, but now you can't see them as often. You can't see if I was sitting at a table with my hands down and tucked into the table, you won't be able to see it. And all I'm going to say is
“you can trust me. This therapy is really gonna help you.”
(Now Mark puts his hands down opened around his naval area). And now I'm going to say:
“You can trust me. This therapy is really going to help you. You can trust me as a physician.”
And it very clear that one of me is more trustworthy than the other.
Now I can bring my hands up here at chest height, I can say :
“look, you can trust me. I'm, I'm here to help you as a physician.”
With my hands up here, it's quite exciting, but it's maybe not as trustworthy. But with hands that exactly, naval height, especially with open palm gestures, that's not essential, but it's the icing on the cake open we'll win a huge amount of trust.
So, that's what we call the TruthPlane. And I coined that term and designed the gesture plane system and all of that can be found in the book Winning Body Language.
But as I say, go to https://truthplane.mykajabi.com/wblkeynote. That video training was for physician leaders. I was working within one of drugs companies actually in, for a drug for hepatitis and a particular form of hepatitis. They were trying to help their physician leaders get the message across to other physicians and their patients. And so I was helping them with trust and credibility of getting that message across. And the training there was originally specifically designed for physicians.
Lalit: That's cool. Well, you know, when you talk about the different planes I think at chest level you call it the passion play passion plane. And doing it the right amount or the right level I imagine is good, but then when you do it too much or you're up there, you can look a bit crazy or it can be overwhelming. And I think that’s what you were talking about when I at the conference. It really was that this position (arms up) is really like an attack position, right? So then you feel kind of, “oh,oh is he going to attack me?” So I found that the plane system helpful in understanding how we may affect others.
Mark: When hands go higher, heart rate and breathing rate go up. That's just the natural effect of hands being sustained at chest height. There's just more for the heart to do against gravity, you know? So we get more excited by this. A human being more excited can be riskier depending on the emotion that's going with it. Look a human being that is very happy and excited, can be as risky as one that's very aggressive and excited simply because they may have both lost track of reality somewhat. They both, if we follow either one of them, if either one of them becomes the leader there's a risk that they're not thinking accurately. So this can be exciting, but it's not necessarily that trustworthy. And look, there's no bad body language. There's just results that you wanted or didn't want, that's all.
And if you're not getting the right effect, you change the behaviour. Well, the key is what behaviours do you change and that's my, skill of my, my art is knowing the behaviours that are most likely to get you the effect that you want. I've investigated this, possibly more than anybody else that I know of. And certainly, many people would say that too.
I'm looking at what exactly do you want to do that will have an effect. So, so you were saying about stuff that's, that gets confusing. So if I do asymmetrical gestures up in the passion play in here, which I'm doing right now, so one side of my body is never really doing what the other side is doing. (Mark moves his hands up and down in the passion plane-chest area).
You will notice this is already pretty confusing for you. But if I just make them symmetrical... if I just make them symmetrical, it's less confusing. Now, why is that? It's because your brain wants to look at both sides of the body and if each side is doing something different from the other side, and that keeps changing, that's a lot of neurological load. That's a lot for your brain to try and comprehend because it keeps changing. It can't make a good snap judgment because those snap judgments have to keep changing. So what is it do? It just gives up. It just goes, I don't get this? And when it gets confused your instinct goes confused it doesn't go, “oh good, I'm confused.” It goes, “well, that's really bad that I'm confused. So then it makes it, it's judgement. It goes, “ this is bad.” This is a bad person for me. They have bad content for me. They have bad advice for me, and the reality is I could be the expert that you needed. It's just my gestures keep changing asymmetrically and it's high neural load for your brain. Your brain gave up. It made me bad. It took the wrong decision.
Maybe I should be a better communicator if I really want to help you. Maybe one of the things I want to do is concentrate on clearer, more symmetrical gestures. Well, back to our earlier point that's manipulative because I'm doing it on purpose. I'm not being the me that I was before - that that is totally being asymmetrical. I'm being a structured me, I'm being the me that creates an illusion on purpose in order to get a purposeful result from you. The problem is that could get a good result or a bad result. And I am trying to get good results from you. So I'm doing it for good reasons. So, you know, morally from my point of view, I'm in the clear, but they'll be people who do this from other people's points of view for bad reasons and morally from, from their point of view, they won't be in the clear.
Lalit: Well I think there's a difference between the place where you're coming from, in terms of manipulation or being manipulative. You know, I think the word manipulation has a negative connotation. For me, it still rings that tone of...deceit.
Let’s say you're trying to help somebody and you're doing these asymmetric gestures like you were doing there, made me feel uncomfortable and it was difficult to watch. For those few seconds, I could see my brain saying “ I want to leave this conversation.” I never really experienced or realized that until I saw you do it just now.
Mark: Let me, let me just do this.I'll let you experience this again. (Mark waves his hands asymmetrically) He say’s “I'm going to ask you to do is take a small amount of Synthroid every day. You won't, you won't feel any effects from that, you know, right now, but over many, many years it’s going to make things a lot better for you. It could improve, you know decreasing your chance of heart attack in the future.
Lalit: Oh Gosh. I've seen people talk like that. I've seen people talk like that.
Mark: All I'm going to do is be symmetrical now. (Mark gestures his hands symmetrically now)
“Now, what I'm going to ask you to do is take a small amount of Synthroid every day. And though you won't feel any effects from that on a daily basis, what will happen in the future, it will absolutely improve your chances of your heart being really functional and healthy.”
And notice what happened is I started to choose my words better as well. All I was doing was being symmetrical on purpose. And that might not be naturally how I speak. So I'm not being the authentic me, I'm being a structured me, but I'm being a structured me on purpose in order to get a very authentic goal- that I want people to get better. And also I'm still doing no harm. You know, I remember I'm still first doing no harm.
I think, you know, as a communicator you need some strong values to keep a certain compass. And outside of that, if you want to be a really great communicator, you've got to do whatever is necessary in order to get the results that you want. Think about those great thing about those great illusionists that you and I will have seen. And when you, when you find out or you get a hint of what it is they are doing to create that illusion- you kind of go, wow, they pushed it that far. They really do that. That must have taken so long, so much energy and so much money, so much effort to create that moment for the audience. But they're willing to do it. They're willing to sacrifice all of that to get that moment.
That's why they're, they're great. They're willing to do whatever is necessary to create the effect. Even, I mean, without giving too much away, you know, especially if a magician or illusionist says, “you know, there are no, I've got no plants in the audience. There are no camera tricks in this.” The first thing you expect is that our plants and camera trick. You think, why are they lying to you? Because by lying to you, they can create a beautiful moment of wonder that could affect your life, that could make you understand that the world is much greater than you thought it was. And they're willing to blatantly lie to you to get that moment. They are artists.
Lalit: You know what I always say about magicians and illusionists, in that we're, in one sense, the most honest, because we are clear about that we're out to deceive you and for entertainment. But the whole purpose is to have that sense of wonder. And that's what movies do. You watch it or read a book. You are escaping to a different set of feelings and excitement. On a day to day level, we get so caught up in the mundane and the rituals of life. If you look at a cell phone and the amazing things it can do! You can talk to somebody. You can be at the other end of the earth and through this little square box that you have in your hand you can connect with people- that's spectacular. But we forget that. And then you when you go to go see a magic show or you see a magic trick they are amazed “oh my gosh, that's amazing” because we've taken them to a childlike state.
Mark: So I think that's right. Well, I think the thing is that you've reminded them of being alive. You reminded them of the wonder of being alive right now and the magic of it. And it has happened in front of them. Sometimes some of the best magic that happens in your hand, doesn't it? You put something in their hand and they're like, “we got it” and then it is gone!?
You know, the mystery, the magical wonder happens in their own flesh and so you are creating this through, through lies and deceit. You’re creating the truth of this moment of wonder inside them. And it is absolutely well worth the deceit and lies a for sure. Otherwise, we're in quite a wonderful world, but we can often forget that. And you know, it's the point of art and magic that is well done; when brilliantly well done as an art, it reminds us that we're alive- that’s the purpose of art. You'll have hit that moment from many audiences and your performances, we'll have hit that moment for you when you've gone. “ Wow, I'm alive right now. And they're alive”. It’s that moment of wonder that connects us.
That's the thing. It connects us as human beings. So it's important this word entertainment, cause you mentioned it back then, is to entertain. Entertain, like the word manipulation, gets a bit of a bad rap.
“Oh, it's just entertainment.” Well, entertainment is a beautiful medieval Latin word from medieval French, Latin which just simply means to hold together. It simply means to connect that. That we hold the idea together. When you truly entertain me, we as the audience are entertained, we hold together. We have the same idea, the same moment of wonder altogether. And suddenly we go, we're not alone. We have others like us. It is not a lonely world. That's an extraordinary thing to be able to do. And all great artists entertain. That's what they do. They hold, they create this moment where we all hold together as social mammals, as human beings, and we set them free, suddenly go. It's not just me in my own.
Lalit: That is beautifully said. I've never heard that explained that way.
Mark, I know that you, you are on a little bit of a time crunch and so I want to ask you this one question. I want to make sure I ask this because you're highly successful. You've consulted business leader, the Fortune 500 companies, presidents, actors. You've made a huge influence on people's lives. You're really like the number one in your field. But I think there is perhaps a misconception that successful people don't have any failures or they don't have any setbacks. Do you have a particular failure or an embarrassment that maybe was catastrophic for you but you turned it around or are you, you thought of it in a better way? Do you have something?
Mark: For sure, the biggest one is I'm dyslexic. I can't read or write very well. That caused me huge amounts of, failures at school when I was a kid; I mean just abject failures. The ability to, to be, in certain areas, utterly useless. I mean, just completely so- not even below average, like below the very lowest possible. I've experienced, very much what it's like to have an absolute complete failure at something. And that's been a strong influence on my life. That has caused me, like many other dyslexics, to find other ways of getting places. Some, some sneaky ways of getting around stuff were good. You know, dyslexics are good at coming up with cheats, with ways of getting around stuff with novel and interesting solutions to get to the place that others naturally are in. Because we find these novel ways, sometimes we find that we suddenly excel in that area because the, cheat, the sneak is actually innovative.
It's nobody's thought of doing it that way before. So a lot of my innovation comes from me finding the sneaky ways of, of getting stuff done because I can't do them in the way that other people would often do.
Lalit: I did not know that about you. I know that there are some amazing people who have done amazing things, who have dyslexia and they have said very much the same thing. It has actually kind of forced them to think about the world and accomplishing things in a different manner.
Mark: Yes, so not only do we find innovative ways of getting stuff done, but just the way our mind is structured and the brain is hacked together just means that we actually experienced the world in quite a different way as well. So not only do we find sneaky ways, but we're looking at it differently as well in the first place. So, you know, my advice to anybody is, if you are out there and you're dyslexic, keep going, keep it up.
And if you need solutions for whatever you're doing, and you haven't got one yet, find a dyslexic. Go to a dyslexic and say look, here's the problem. I guarantee they'll come up with something. They might not come up with a good solution, but they'll come up with something and it will be different from what you've already thought of it. Always worth a go ask a dyslexic. That's good advice.
Lalit: That's good advice, Mark. I want to ask you a few rapid-fire fun questions just to get to know a little bit about you. If you were to put a message today on a billboard that you think is important, what would that be?
Mark : Yes. So I think it would be something I just intimated back there, which was, - stick at it, keep going, stick at it... You know, keep on going. Many of the leaders that I've worked with who've been extraordinary in what they've managed to achieve, and I've always asked - “ so have you managed this? What, what have you done? How did you get, this is from people who have created extraordinary businesses and innovations and, and become, literally world leaders, literally running countries.” Every one of them basically says, you just stay with it. You just keep on going. You just don't give up. You keep on going, you fail and you keep on going. Keep on going and keep on going.
And partly because, other people will drop out. They don't have the staying power, and you know, that doesn't mean you're the best. It's just you didn't give up. You know what? That's really hard. It's really hard advice to take, but at least it's simple.
Lalit: But you know what it's simple and it's good advice- really good advice. That’s what I tell my kids, just stick at it. Keep on at it and you will find a breakthrough.
Mark: That’s true, I often talk to people about the break. They go, “when am I going to get my break? When will it break for me? “ It's like you take both ends of the stick and you keep on pushing, pushing, pushing, and eventually, it breaks- but it's really hard work.
And there's points where you're just going, that's a really wet bendy stick. It's not going to break, all I'm doing is bending this thing! I know it will start to crack and snap at some point. You gotta keep gotta keep at it.
Lalit: That is great. Who dead or alive would you like to have dinner with?
Mark: Oh, just, just my, my friends and them and immediate family. Just the people actually who II actually constantly have dinner with.
Lalit: That's an honest answer.
Mark: I wouldn't you, you know ...who wants Churchill around? I mean was going to get very drunk. He’d be fun, but ultimately, ultimately no, just, just, my, my wife Tracy and the kids- and our best friends.
Lalit: Well, it's so straight forward answer. I was expecting something crazy, but that's honest.
Mark: No, nothing crazy for it. I've had dinner with a lot of extraordinary people. I guess you did once. Once is good. Wears off after a while. But after that, I think, you know, they either become your friends or they don't. And, and I'd rather spend the time with my friends.
Lalit: What are your hobbies? Like, what do you do when, you know, you're not out teaching? What, what's the fun side of you?
Mark: I work a lot, so there's not a lot the time. But I love to cook.
Lalit: Any particular cuisine?
Mark: All kinds especially different cuisines, different techniques. I'll concentrate on a technique for a bit. I might concentrate on s cuisine and try and get that right. Obviously, you know, my, the, the major thing I love, I love to cook. Being English and being born in England, I love cooking curry.
Lalit: So you love Indian food, well my wife is the best cook ever.
Mark: I'm sure. Well, people's wives always are.
Lalit: No, no, I don't say it for the sake of saying it, I've eaten Indian cuisine from so many different places and I say it with true honesty. I think a very gifted, gifted chef. She really knows what she's doing...(Lalit and Mark go on and talk about Indian curries and beer).
I really appreciate the time that you took today. I would love to have you come back all the future because there's so much to learn from you still like we were just grazing the surface for sure. I'm gonna put a link to the books that you, have produced and if anybody wants to get a hold of Mark they can go to his website at https://truthplane.com/
You can find Mark Bowden on Youtube, LinkedIn and Twitter. It was a real honour to have you here today, I had a blast.
Mark: Thanks very much for having me. Thanks for your great questions and, and for sure anytime you want to do this again, I'm open to it. You know where to find me.